The Law Society of Singapore (LawSoc) yesterday launched a new scheme to offer mediation services at competitive prices.
It also plans to develop a specialist panel of mediators for different categories of disputes.
Mediation is on the rise as a form of dispute resolution. The Singapore Mediation Centre (SMC) handled 499 cases last year, a 72 per cent jump over the number in 2015.
In his keynote address at the Law Society Mediation Forum, where he launched the Law Society Mediation Scheme (LSMS), Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon noted that mediation is a crucial part of Singapore's dispute resolution landscape.
"We need to overlay a more user-centric approach on top of the institutional values that define the ideals of our legal system," he said, citing five ideals: affordability, efficiency, accessibility, flexibility and effectiveness.
Certificates of appointment were presented to 21 senior mediators and 53 associate mediators at yesterday's event at the Singapore Management University.
The LSMS offers competitive rates compared with those at the SMC, a similar mediation avenue, for commercial mediation involving claims above $60,000.
Mediation fees for LSMS claims between $100,000 and $250,000 are set at $750 per party, per day.
In contrast, the SMC charges $1,000 per party, per day for claims within the same bracket.
For claims under $60,000, the SMC charges between $75 and $150 per party, per hour while the LSMS charges $350 per party, per day.
Mediators told The Straits Times they see mediation as a better way to resolve disputes than expensive and complicated court processes.
Senior mediator B. Rengajaroo, who is in his 70s, was trained to litigate but shifted towards mediation in 2005. "I find real satisfaction in mediating," he said.
"The parties get to decide and everything is within their control. They're the best judges after all."
Agreeing, associate mediator Valerie Ang, 46, said: "In litigation, there's always a winner and a loser.
"In mediation, autonomy reverts to the parties. It's win-win for not just the disputants but also the lawyers and firms."
LawSoc president Gregory Vijayendran said the LSMS creates more opportunities for lawyers to serve as mediators.
He also called on members of the legal profession to internalise this as "another stream of work".
"I strongly believe that the dispute resolution lawyer of tomorrow will need mediation skills as part of his or her tool box," he said.